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Our environmental dilemmas were passed down to us in the form of cultural norms that continue to make things worse. Here’s why the next generation needs to confront the bad habits of the past.
No one likes to have their child criticize them for poor decision-making, but that’s what we’re facing on a global scale. The youth are standing up to hold governments, business leaders, parents--all of us accountable for environmental inaction.
We live in a culture that promotes fast food produced in factory farms and processed for mass consumption. This trend towards an increased pace of life has also infused fast fashion with its quickly outdated trends. Even high-speed internet encourages us to consume new movies, TV shows, and social media at a breakneck speed. Reactions against this trend already exist in the form of the slow food movement and conscious consumerism, but more can be done.
Gone are the days of the lifetime warranty and milkman deliveries. Manufacturers design for planned obsolescence so that old models breakdown quickly and new versions inspire you to upgrade. We throw away and replace, even when the useful life of our products hasn’t ended. The waste stream is filled with consumer goods from clothing to appliances and all of its single-use plastic packagings now crowds our oceans and waterways.
1. Explore nature
Nature is both therapeutic and inspirational. Spending time in nature creates memorable experiences that linger throughout our lives. Get outdoors with your kids, friends and neighbors. Enjoy the scent of fresh air and explore the unique interactions between insects, plants and animals outside.
2. Tackle big ideas
Our young leaders are constantly proving that they’re ready to take on big challenges. Just look to Greta Thunberg, leader of the climate strike movement, who was recently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. When we engage and inspire young people to think towards the future and solve global problems, they will step up to the challenge.
3. Defend social and emotional values
Social and emotional intelligence allows young people to draw upon empathy to make impacting decisions. By developing values and intelligence that are rooted in care and respect for others, today’s youth can build stronger relationships and communities.
4. Teach courage and resilience
Today’s youth need to learn how to take personal risks and persist even when they are faced with daunting challenges. By encouraging them to stand up for strongly felt principles and go against the grain for what seems right, our youth will learn valuable leadership skills.
5. Cultivate scientific awareness
Given the past efforts to discredit science in the form of climate change denial, it is crucial that our youth have an understanding of how Earth systems work. This means understanding how sound biological and physical principles must underpin our infrastructure, technology, energy and food systems.
6. Connect past, present, and future
Understanding our environmental dilemmas goes beyond looking at the present moment. Creating a historical awareness that extends beyond our technology-infused lifestyle is key to developing an understanding of our current economic and social conditions. This will likewise give young people a way to envision the future they want to create.